A meal of black beans and rice is an inexpensive, low-fat, cholesterol-free source of protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. However, beans contain raffinose sugar, a compound that our bodies can't digest, though the bacteria in our intestines can. When they do, they produce carbon dioxide and hydrogen -- and you end up with intestinal gas. Additionally, black beans are a high-fiber food; if you add fiber into your diet too rapidly, you may also end up with gas. Rice -- white or brown -- is high in fiber, but isn't linked to an increase in intestinal gas, says Columbia Health. By following a few guidelines, you can work up to eating beans and rice without digestive problems. If you've tried but still experience symptoms that won't go away or are worsening, talk to your doctor.
Prepare Dried Beans Properly
When you're preparing to cook dried black beans, soak them in fresh, cold water for eight to 12 hours, then drain the soaking water and rinse the beans well. According to the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine, you should never cook beans in their soaking water since raffinose sugars accumulate in the water during the soaking process. If you're concerned about the vitamins and minerals you may lose doing this -- some of those leach into the soaking water too -- "New York Times" food writer Harold McGee says you can retain them and still decrease gas problems by cooking the beans in the soaking water for at least 2 hours. Or, use a slow cooker. Both methods can help break down raffinose.
Prepare Canned Beans Properly
If you're using canned black beans to prepare your black beans and rice, rinsing is key to decreasing the amount of raffinose sugars you'll consume. Place the beans in a colander, discard any liquid left in the can and rinse the beans thoroughly with cold water. Allow them to continue to drain for a few minutes to get rid of as much of the raffinose as possible.
Kombu, also called konbu or kelp, is a dark seaweed that contains alpha-galactosidase, the enzyme that breaks down raffinose sugars, and which humans lack. If you add kombu to the water when you're cooking presoaked dried beans, it can help decrease the amount of gas you suffer after eating the finished dish. Kombu is available in sheets or strips, typically in Asian markets or health food stores. "Washington Post" writer Casey Seidenberg recommends using a 4-inch strip when cooking beans like black beans on the stove top or in the slow cooker.
Use an Enzyme Preparation
Some over-the-counter enzyme preparations contain the alpha-galactosidase enzyme, derived from the naturally occurring Aspergillus niger mold. This enzyme is often combined in the preparation with invertase, an enzyme that works to break down sugars. Using these products can help you deal with the gas produced from eating black beans and rice, but you'll need to take it just before you plan to eat a potentially high-gas meal for it to be effective. Additionally, the more beans you eat, the more of the product you'll need to take.
Start slowly when you're adding foods like black beans and rice into your diet. Increasing your fiber intake gradually over several weeks allows the bacteria in your intestinal tract to get used to the dietary change. Drink plenty of water and exercise regularly.
Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.